The carrier Ronald Reagan scrambled four armed F/A-18 Hornets launched to Tuesday to intercept two incoming Russian TU-142 Bear bombers in a startling low altitude pass by 7th Fleet's aircraft carrier. Tuesday that came within a mile of the flattop at an altitude of 500 feet. 

The Russian TU-142 Bear bombers barreled by at an altitude of 500 feet and within a mile of the flattop, then The incident occurred in the Sea of Japan while the Reagan was participating in bilateral exercises with the Republic of Korea. Navy officials said the intercept by the Hornets was standard procedure for aircraft operating near Navy forces.

Navy officials characterized the interactions as safe.

The Reagan Carrier Strike Groupgroup attempted to raise the bomber on the radio but the Russians made no answer, said Navy spokesman Cmdr. William Marks in a statement. The Russian fly-by was first reported by Stars and Stripes. Bear bombers have a long-range and enormous range and are used primarily for reconnaissance, though they can be configured and loaded out with long-range cruise missiles and anti-submarine weapons, among other things.

Close encounters between U.S. Navy forces and Russian reconnaissance flights were routine during the Cold War and have reemerged as Russia has reasserted its military might in the wake of the country's 2014 forcible annexation of Crimea. a regular occurrence for U.S. ships operating forward since Russia's annexation of the Crimea in early 2014. Nations in Europe and Asia have expressed increasing concerns over Russian incursions into their airspace.

The recent uptick in Russian surveillance flights is a signal to the West that they are back in the game after years of low activity, analysts say.

"The Russians are showing that they have the wherewithal to maintain and deploy an aircraft on a long-distance flight," said Bryan Clark, a retired submarine veteranofficer and analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. "That may not sound like a big deal to us since we do it all the time. But for a country that hasn't done that for a while, it's actually a big deal.

"It's a big statement on their part that they are back, that they have restored long-range surveillance capability and, by extension, their long range strike capability."

Russia has been more active on all fronts, causing U.S. Navy leaders to raise the alarm.

In early October, the head of U.S. Navy forces in Europe said the Russians were increasingly pushing their agenda in the Mediterranean.

"They are signaling us and warning us that the maritime domain is contested space," Adm. Mark Ferguson said. "In statements in public they have talked of establishing permanent presence in the Mediterranean, and breaking out from their perceived military encirclement by NATO, economic sanctions and political isolation."

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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